Tales of Danger: Days of Discovery Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 12+)
  • For 1 to 6 players
  • Approximately 45 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Strategy & Tactics
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Moderate
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • Obtain a sponsor, hire a crew, and set sail into the unknown

Endorsements:

  • Gamer Geek approved!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!

Overview

Portugal 1290. The known world is divided up and ruled by kings and queens, each looking for opportunities to extend their kingdoms and influence. You are an explorer, a sailor, and adventurer. You have found what appears to be an unknown chain of islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. If your charts and information is correct, these islands will serve as a foothold into the unknown world! But first, you must convince the royal powers that such a trip is worth taking, then find a crew and a sea worthy boat. Then, finally, take the voyage itself to the fabled “Land of Danger”.

Tales of Danger: Days of Discovery, designed by Matt Worden and published by Matt Worden Gamesis comprised 6 Player Reference cards (jumbo-sized), 6 Sponsor cards, 102 People cards, and 3 extra little zipping bags to help keep everything organized. A nice touch! Normally, I would not comment on the game component quality since this game is technically not yet published (but only per the definition of the game designer). However, the game is being produced through the good folks at the Game Crafter who really have their act together. The game I was provided is the equivalent to the “final release”. The cards are thick and durable, with colorful artwork by Kristijan Hranisavljevic that brings it all together. Excellent quality.

Note: For the sake of simplicity (and laziness on my part), this game will be referred to as “Days of Discovery” for the duration of this review until I decide otherwise.

Preparing for Sponsorship

To set up the game, first give each player a Player Reference card. Unlike other games, the reference cards in Days of Discovery are important to game play. Not only are they used to help the player understand what the objective is for each of the different game acts, they also help keep the player keep track of what information on the cards is used, as well as playing a pivotal role in the game’s final scoring.

Second, shuffle the Sponsor cards and randomly deal a number to the middle of the playing area. The number dealt is determined by the number of players. For example, in a two-player game, two Sponsor cards will be played, but in a four or more player game, all six will be used. This row is referred to as the “Sponsor row”. Place any unused Sponsor cards back in the game box.

Third, arrange the dealt Sponsors in the row by their rank, with the highest rank at the far left and the lowest at the far right.

Fourth, shuffle the People cards and deal three face-up to each player. This is the player’s starting hand. When the game first starts, players keep their cards visible to their opponents. As the game progresses, a player’s hand will later become secret.

Fifth, place the deck of People cards face-down under the Sponsor row. This is the People draw deck for the duration of the game. From the People draw deck deal five People cards face-up in a row. This is the People row (also referred to as the “Pool”) for the duration of the game. Leave room for a discard pile to the left of the People draw deck.

That’s it for game set up. Determine who will be the first player and begin.

Preparing for a Trip to the Royal Court

The Sponsor cards represent the major powers in the royal court who the players are attempting to persuade to provide patronage for sea voyage. The good news is that the Sponsors are very open to such an idea. The bad news is, that the Sponsors are not easy to get to. In fact, each player will have to leverage a network of supporters to reach the ear of the major Sponsors.

Each Sponsor card has the following information.

  1. Name and Title: The name of the Sponsor and their title. Used for narrative and thematic reasons, but plays no role in the game itself.
  2. Sponsor Icon: The icon is used on the People cards to identify which people can influence the Sponsor.
  3. Act One Requirements: Lists the number of Evidence and Plans needed by the player to persuade the Sponsor to give them support.
  4. Act Two Card Management: Each Sponsor has a unique Starting hand value that is used when transitioning to Act Two, how many Market cards can be collected at a time during Act Two, and the maximum number of cards the player can hold in their hand. While this information is only used to change the rules during the second act of the game, it’s good info for the players to keep in mind during Act One.
  5. Sponsor Rank: Used when organizing the Sponsors in the Sponsor row and turn order sequence during Act Three, as well as being a tie breaker if needed.

The People cards in Days of Discovery hold a great deal of information. However, only certain parts of the cards are used during certain Acts in the game.

  1. Act One: Plans and Evidence: The number of Plans and Evidence the People card provides.
  2. Act One: Sponsor Support: A People card will be able to approach one or more Sponsors. Those they support are noted as icons that match the individual Sponsor cards. Those noted with a star are considered “Insiders”.
  3. Act Two and Three: Crew and Supplies: Lists the number of Crew and Supplies the People card can help provide. This value is used when completing voyage segments by “paying” Segment Costs. Some crew and supplies cancel specific Segment Cost conditions and some are free for the player to acquire based on who is sponsoring them.
  4. Act Three: Segment Difficulty and Journal Quality: The number indicates two possible values. The first is the overall difficulty to traverse a specific segment of the journey and points to be won. The higher the difficulty, the more the player will have to pay via the Segment cost. The second is the journal entry quality which also counts as points at the end of the game, but only for completed voyage segments.
  5. Action Three: Segment Cost: The needed number of crew and supplies necessary to complete the segment of the voyage. Some Segment costs also list a condition (for example, “Rough Seas”) that matches special Crew and Supplies on other People cards that can be used to cancel the condition.

From Map to Sea

Days of Discovery is played in Acts, turns, and steps. There are a total of three Acts per game, but there are no set number of turns players will have. The game play for each of the three Acts is summarized here.

Act One: Secure Sponsorship

The first act of the game is all about getting to the ear and securing the patronage of one of the shown Sponsor cards. This is done by gathering specific People cards who can provide Plans and Evidence to persuade the Sponsor to hold a meeting with the player and fund the voyage to the unexplored territory. On a player’s turn, they will complete four steps.

Step One: Recruit People

The first thing a player does on their turn during Act One is draw two People cards and add them, face-up, to the cards they have in front of them. People cards can be drawn from the People row (known cards) or from the top of the People draw deck (a blind draw). Whenever a player draws from the People draw deck, they must also select one People card from the People row to discard. This is a good tactic to use when you know an opponent is specifically looking to collect certain People cards, but it comes at the cost of drawing blindly. Any and all People cards discarded are placed face-up in a discard pile next to the People draw deck.

Step Two: Check Hand Size

The player now counts the People cards they have in front of them. The hand size limit is seven. If the player has more than seven People cards, they must now discard down to seven.

Step Three: Refill People Row

The player now draws the top two People cards from the People draw deck and adds them to the People row, bringing the row back to five People cards. If the People draw deck is depleted, take the discard pile, shuffle, and place face-down to create a new People draw deck.

Step Four: Secure a Sponsor

This step is optional and can only be completed if the player has enough People cards in their hand to fulfill the Act One requirements listed on one of the Sponsor cards. Note that the player need not take a Sponsor they could collect if that is not the Sponsor they want to take. Each Sponsor provides a subtle different benefit, meaning players should take a moment to determine if it’s the right time to collect a Sponsor card or not.

To collect a Sponsor card, the player must have at least one “Insider”and have at minimum the listed number of evidence and plans required by the Sponsor. A People card is considered an “Insider” if there is a small star is next to the matching Sponsor icon. Note that the People cards used to supply the evidence and plans must have a Sponsor icon that matches the Sponsor they will be used for, but do not need to be an “Insider” to do so.

If the player does collect a Sponsor, they transition to Act Two. They take the following steps in the listed sequential order before ending their turn.

  1. Collect the Sponsor card and place it in front of them, face-up. This is the player’s Sponsor for the duration of the game. It’s not counted as a card in the player’s hand. It’s primary use from now on is reference.
  2. Collect the People cards face-up in front of the player and discard down to the “Start” hand size listed on the Sponsor card. The cards in the player’s hand are still kept face-up.

When a player completes step four, they take the steps noted for Act Two on their next turn. There is a special rule called “Move the Story Along” that comes into play during the first act when there is only one player left who has not completed the fourth step in Act One. The last player to collect a Sponsor now selects the Sponsor card with the lowest rank that is still available regardless of the cards in their hand. Now all players can move to Act Two.

Act Two: Gather Crew and Supplies

After a player has completed Act One, their game shifts from attempting to influence a Sponsor to buying supplies for their voyage. Players will be adding People cards to their hand, which represents the crew and supplies that will be placed on their ship. The People row is now considered the Market. The maximum number of People cards a player can have in their hand is determined by their Sponsor card. On a player’s turn, they will complete five steps.

Step One: Collect Free Market Cards

Some People cards will show that they are “free” if the player has a specific Sponsor card. If the player has the matching Sponsor, they can collect those People cards now and add them to their hand. The People card row is then refilled in the same way it was refilled during Act One.

Step Two: Gather from the Market

The player can now collect a number of People cards as indicated by their Sponsor card’s Market value. People cards can be drawn from the People row (known cards) or from the top of the People draw deck (a blind draw). Whenever a player draws from the People draw deck, they must also select one People card from the People row to discard. This is identical to the Recruiting People step during Act One.

Step Three: Check Hand Size

The player now counts the People cards they have in their hand. A player’s hand size limit is determined by the Max value noted on their Sponsor card. If the player has more than the max value listed, they must now discard down to the maximum value. Remember, the Sponsor card does not count as a card in the player’s hand!

Step Four: Refill People Row

The player now draws the top People cards from the People draw deck and adds them to the People row, bringing the row back to five People cards. If the People draw deck is depleted, take the discard pile, shuffle, and place face-down to create a new People draw deck.

Step Five: Check for Start of Act Three

If all the players have their maximum hand size, Act Three begins during the next player’s turn. If one or more player’s do not, then Act Two is continued during the next player’s turn.

When transitioning to Act Three, all players take the following steps in the listed sequential order.

  1. Remove any Sponsor cards still in play and place them back into the game box.
  2. All players now pick up their hand of cards from the table and keep them hidden for the duration of the game.
  3. Shuffle the People cards in the People row and the discard pile into the People draw deck, placing the People draw deck face-down in the middle of the game playing area. There is no People row in Act Three, but there will be a discard pile.
  4. Flip the Player Reference card to Act Three.

Act Three: Voyage to the Land of Danger

This act is focused on the voyage to the unknown and potentially dangerous new land that should, based on the evidence and plans provided, be on the map where there is only currently open water. Such a voyage is a gamble, but the player has prepared a skilled crew and packed enough supplies for the trip. The player will now have to hope it’s enough to get them to their destination.

The turn order sequence during Act Three is based on the Sponsor rank. The player with the highest ranking Sponsor is the first player. The turn order sequence then follows as normal, with the next player on the first player’s left going second and so on. On a player’s turn, they will complete four steps.

Step One: Create Your First Voyage Segment

The player either selects a card from their hand with a known listed Segment Difficulty value or draws a card from the People draw deck, which represents an unknown level of difficulty. The People card selected is placed in front of the player, face-up. If other People cards have been played during this Act, the player should make sure the different People cards are not mixed together. The card played should be orientated so the Segment Difficulty value is in the lower left as the player looks a the card.

In this example, the Segment Difficulty would be “2”

Then the player draws a number of cards from the People draw deck equal to the Segment Difficulty value of the first card they placed face-up. These cards represent the Segment Cost, identifying what resources the player will need to use in order to safely complete the voyage segment. These cards are also placed face-up and put on top of the first card that represents the Segment Difficulty, ensuring the Segment Difficulty value is not covered.

Step Two: Complete Current Voyage Segment or Forage

The player must now either attempt to complete their voyage segment in front of them or forage on the surrounding islands and ocean for the necessary resources to complete the voyage segment.

To complete the voyage segment, the player must “pay” the Segment Cost by matching the listed number of crew and supplies from their hand. The number of crew and supplies must match or exceed the necessary cost. Sorry, no benefit if you overspend. Note that some People cards cancel conditions. A People card that has such a canceling action pays for all the Segment Cost cards that have that have that matching condition in the voyage segment. For example, a “Priest” People card can cancel “Bad Luck”. Any People card in the voyage segment that is being used to determine the Segment Cost and has “Bad Luck” noted on it is considered “paid for” by playing this one “Priest” People card!

Some People cards used for the Segment Cost will have the condition “Great Fishing”. These conditions do not add to the overall cost, but will provide the player a number of bonus People cards drawn from the People draw deck once the voyage segment is completed.

If the player can pay for their voyage segment, the player takes the following steps in the listed sequential order.

  1. All cards from the player’s hand that are used to pay for the Segment Cost are discarded.
  2. Draw bonus cards if provided by “Great Fishing”.
  3. Place the People card that indicated the Segment Difficulty face-up to the indicated “Completed Segments”space on the Player Reference card. Cards placed here should overlap, with only the Segment Difficulty value showing.
  4. Select one card from the player’s hand to place face-down to the indicated “Journal” space on the Player Reference card. This card indicates the quality of the journal entry created by the player during this specific segment of the voyage.

If the player has completed less than five voyage segments, they prepare a new voyage segment now, repeating step one noted above. Their turn is then over.

If the player cannot complete their voyage segment, they must forage by taking the following steps in the listed sequential order.

  1. Draw the top four cards from the People draw deck and place face-up in a row.
  2. Select one face-up card to add to the Segment cost.
  3. Take the three remaining People cards and add them to the player’s hand. There is no hand size limit during this act!

This ends the player’s turn.

The End of an Epic Voyage

The third act continues until a player has completed their fifth voyage segment (fifth card added to “Completed Segments”). This triggers the final round. All players except the player who triggered the final round now take one last turn. After every player has taken their final turn, points are scored.

To determine a player’s final score, first flip over all the People cards that are face-down in the “Journal” space. Then add the number values shown on the ship icons on the collected People cards in both the “Completed Segments” and “Journal” spaces. The player with the most points wins the game. Ties are broken by Sponsor ranking, with victory going to the player with the highest ranking sponsor.

Sailing Alone

Days of Discovery is best played (in my opinion) with others, but the game can also be enjoyed if there are no other players to be found. The objective is to complete five voyages in a single pass of the People draw deck. The People draw deck is, essentially, the player’s timer. When the timer runs out, the game is over and the player determines their standing in the game by counting up all their points and how many Sponsors they have acquired. I’ve played Days of Discovery a few times as a solitaire game and it’s not easy. The standard game gives you time to think things through and hold off from triggering certain acts until you are ready. Not the case when sailing the oceans alone. You are under a deadline and time quickly runs out! To help the player navigate not only the thematic choppy waters, but also the increased difficulty of the game, they can have multiple sponsors, which is a noted above the Act Three information on the People card. If the Sponsor card is not owned by the player, the People card is discarded or cannot be used to determine the Segment Difficulty.

To learn more about Tales of Danger: Days of Discovery, visit the game’s web page or support it by pledging to the game’s Kickstarter campaign.

Final Word

The Child Geeks launched into this game, but were first confused by the cards. They are comfortable playing with cards that represent one or no more than two things at most. The People cards in Days of Discovery play up to five! This sounded confusing and potentially really difficult to the Child Geeks, but the game is so well designed, each role of the cards plays off the previous, making it surprisingly easy to understand what he cards are communicating. According to one Child Geek, “I like this game because it doesn’t feel like I’m playing a card game. I feel like I’m playing an adventure.” Which was even further heightened by me playing “Sail Away” by Enya a few times during the final act. Another Child Geek reported, “I think this is three games smashed together into one game and I like what it smashed into!” Very true! Days of Discovery does feel like three different games at times, since each act has a well-defined starting and ending, as well as an objective. When all the ships returned to home port, the Child Geeks all agreed that Days of Discovery was a game they’d play again and again.

The Parent Geeks also enjoyed the game, but there were a few moments of concern. According to one Parent Geek, “I at first found the game really difficult because I was having a hard time understanding how one part of the game fed the other. I felt a bit out of control, to tell the truth. But as I played it, I saw that everything makes sense. I ended up really enjoying it.” Another Parent Geek said, “Really good stuff going on in this game. I like how there are three parts to the game, each with their own goal, and how the game moves the story along through cards and with the discussion shared with the players.” This is a good point to put a bit more emphasis on. Because Days of Discovery is played mostly with everyone sharing what cards they have (until the very end), the players tended to help each other out when it was obvious an opponent was stuck and openly discussed strategies. The game naturally created an atmosphere of a shared game experience rather than each player working off in a corner of their own. The end result was a game that all the Parent Geeks agreed was worth their table time.

The Gamer Geeks, of course, looked at the game from a different perspective, but they found no flaws to complain about or weaknesses to exploit. According to one Gamer Geek, “This is a very solid game. I really enjoyed how the strategy and tactics subtly shifted through the different acts but fed upon each other, making each turn worth my time and attention.” Another Gamer Geek said, “A unique game split into three. Each act is a separate journey of sorts, but it is the overall experience that I liked the most. I felt like I had my hands on the proverbial wheel the entire time, but was still being given a challenge that was both intellectually stimulating and game mechanically interesting.” The Gamer Geeks all agreed that Days of Discovery was a wonderful find and voted to approve it without hesitation.

I have played this game through several different iterations, watching it grow and change as more and more people played it and gave the game designer their feedback. Matt Worden, the game designer, has created a wonderful game that uses simple mechanics, but feels and plays very differently through each of the three acts. Even better, each act is both a separate game and a prelude to the finale. I liken it to a three part story, wherein the player seeks for support, prepares to sail, and then must face the dangers at sea. Each act has its own pitfalls, unique strategy and tactics, as well as defined objectives. Overlapping it all is the final goal that can only be reached by thinking things through, crescendoing through the acts, and comes to a very satisfying end.

The “trick” to Days of Discovery is understanding the value of a card now and later. Each card is unique and can be played several different ways. I really liked this as it gave the game a great deal of depth without overloading the player with game components to collect. The true value of the card is only visible at the moment it’s played, which means each People card is potentially a game changer. Regardless, each card is worth collecting, meaning a player is never stuck with cards that do nothing of importance. Everything in Days of Discovery has value. It just so happens that, depending on the situation and the timing, some cards are worth a whole lot more.

The game is surprisingly easy to teach, despite being a game played in three very different acts which makes it feel like three different games. The transition from one act to another is smooth and effortless, which not only came as a surprise, but somewhat (hilariously) unnerved our players at first. The new rules introduced in each act are logical extensions of the previously played rules, with the only real mind shift being the focus on the next act’s objective. But even that is a natural shift, both within the game’s play and the game’s narrative. It just “makes sense”, as one of our players reported. The only struggle I ever had during the game is determining what cards I should discard.

On an interesting side note, Days of Discovery is the first of a “Tales of Danger” series of games. This game sets the stage in what will ultimately be a narrative that expands over a 180 year time line. Each game in the series will be played in three acts, be competitive with multiple players (or go solo), be in the same type of box, and be a natural story arc, yet still being its own unique game in and of itself, meaning you don’t have to play one game before another. What will the future hold? Unknown, but I can only imagine, based on the first game in the series, we can expect to travel back to the unknown land, colonize it, and help create a successful new nation. Very exciting stuff.

Do play Tales of Danger: Days of Discovery when time permits. It will challenge and entertain you in equal measure. Each game feels unique and presents new challenges to overcome. I think you might find that the worst part of the game is knowing it has come to an end. But wait, there is good news! You can always give the cards a quick shuffle and embark on a new journey in less than a minute.

“Sail away, sail away, sail away!”

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on CyrusKirby.com. Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

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